Jose Ramirez v. Jefferson Sessions III

PUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 16-2444 JOSE LUIS RAMIREZ, Petitioner, v. JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Attorney General, Respondent. On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Argued: December 5, 2017 Decided: April 17, 2018 Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, MOTZ and TRAXLER, Circuit Judges. Petition for review granted, order of removal vacated, and remanded with directions by published opinion. Chief Judge Gregory wrote the opinion, in which Judge Motz and Judge Traxler joined. ARGUED: Benjamin Winograd, IMMIGRANT & REFUGEE APPELLATE CENTER, LLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Petitioner. Vanessa M. Otero, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF: Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Anthony P. Nicastro, Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. GREGORY, Chief Judge: Jose Ramirez seeks review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) finding him ineligible for special rule cancellation of removal under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). Specifically, the question is whether Ramirez’s convictions for obstruction of justice pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 18.2- 460(A) qualify as crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs). We hold that obstruction of justice under § 18.2-460(A) is not a CIMT because it may be committed without fraud, deception, or any other aggravating element that shocks the public conscience. We therefore grant Ramirez’s petition for review, vacate the BIA’s order of removal, and remand with directions for the Government to facilitate Ramirez’s return to the United States to participate in further proceedings. I. Jose Ramirez, a citizen of El Salvador, first entered the United States in 1996 when he was seventeen years old. Nearly twenty years later, Ramirez was placed in removal proceedings and charged with being present in the United States without being admitted or paroled under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). At his hearing, Ramirez conceded that he had entered the country unlawfully. A.R. 69. Ramirez then applied for special rule cancellation of removal under section 203 of NACARA, Pub. L. No. 105-100, 111 Stat. 2160, 2196–2199 (1997). Section 203 allows certain nationals from El Salvador and other designated countries to apply for suspension of deportation or special rule cancellation of removal and adjust their status to permanent 2 residency. See id. To qualify under NACARA, an alien ordinarily must establish at least seven years of continuous presence in the United States, among other eligibility criteria. 8 C.F.R. § 1240.66(b)(2)–(4). However, an applicant who is inadmissible or removable for having committed a CIMT must establish at least ten years of continuous presence after becoming inadmissible or removable. See Matter of Castro-Lopez, 26 I & N Dec. 693, 693 (BIA 2015); 8 C.F.R. §§ 1240.66(b) and (c). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) moved to pretermit Ramirez’s application for relief under NACARA, arguing that his prior convictions triggered the ten- year requirement. In 2012, Ramirez was convicted of one count of petit larceny under Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-96 ...

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